Ironmen struggle early in Florida

The Vermilion Ironmen are living up to their nickname during a season-opening trip to Florida.
Injuries and absences have depleted the roster to just 11 available players for the community college baseball team, which lost four straight games to begin a seven-game swing through the Sunshine State.
Division II school Glen Oaks (Mich.) swept Division III VCC 13-4 and 5-0 in a Wednesday doubleheader at Auburndale, Fla. One day earlier, state contender Minnesota West roughed up the Ironmen 15-1 and 5-0 in a pair of games at the same location during the RussMatt Classic, a college baseball event that attracts more than 300 teams.
Vermilion’s pitching staff took a hit during the trip when it lost Connor Knettel, a freshman from Brainerd, to a wrist injury. The righthander was expected to start at least one game and work another in relief and the injury taxed an already-stretched VCC pitching staff.
“We need the day off today,” VCC Head Coach Tom Coombe said Thursday, during a break in the team’s seven-game swing. “We need to regroup a bit for the weekend and see if we can cobble together our pitching for the last three games.”
Vermilion’s strongest pitching outing was turned in by Kyle Durbin, a sophomore from Northeast Range. He held Minnesota West to two runs before giving up three runs in the sixth.
The Ironmen had only two hits in the game - by Dakota Schafer and Clayton Gallus - and double-play balls wiped out two early chances to score.
In the opener, sophomore Hunter Piehl recorded 10 strikeouts in five and one-third innings of work. He left with a 5-0 deficit, but the Bluejays roughed up the VCC bullpen and scored 10 runs in the last two frames, including eight in the top of the seventh.
“That one got away from us,” said Coombe. “We got a good start from Hunter but struggled at the plate, and they poured it on at the end.”
Lukas Adelman doubled and scored the only run for the Ironmen.
Vermilion got a highlight against Glen Oaks when freshman Caleb Berg recorded his first college home run - a three-run shot to right field. Glen Oaks,however, used a seven-run fourth inning and a five-run outburst in the seventh to roll to victory.
Adelman was tagged with the loss while both Schafer and Jacob Johnson worked in relief.
Gallus had a solid pitching performance in the second game as temperatures cooled to the mid-50s and spectators covered themselves in blankets during the night game. the sophomore from Becker scattered seven hits through five innings.
“Clayton really competed on the mound and gave us a chance,” said Coombe. “He will be an effective pitcher for us up north.”
Vermilion’s best chance to score came in the sixth, when it loaded the bases with one out.
The Ironmen took on Lincoln (Ill.) Friday and Northern Essex (Mass.) Saturday to close the trip. Weather permitting, VCC resumes its season Mar. 30-31 at Coon Rapids.